Jennifer Siebel Newsom testifies against Harvey Weinstein

Jennifer Siebel Newsom took the stand Monday at Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial and was expected to accuse the fallen Hollywood mogul of raping her when she was a struggling actor nearly 20 years ago.

An emotional Siebel Newsom told a jury in downtown Los Angeles that when she met Weinstein in 2005 at the Toronto International Film Festival, she was a 31-year-old actor and filmmaker who saw him as “the top of the industry.” At the time, she said, she had not yet met her husband, Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Asked by a prosecutor to identify Weinstein in the courtroom, Siebel Newsom covered her face in her hands, sniffled and wiped away tears before pointing to him at the defense table.

“He’s staring at me,” she said.

Harvey Weinstein appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 4.

(Etienne Laurent/Associated Press)

At the film festival, she said, she was speaking with friends at a bar when she noticed that “everybody sort of backed away” as Weinstein walked up to her and introduced himself.

“I felt like the Red Sea was parting,” she recalled. “I don’t know whether it was deference or fear.”

She said she found Weinstein both charming and intimidating but was flattered that he seemed curious about her budding career.

Weinstein asked to meet with her later that evening at a hotel bar, she tested, and she went there with a friend. The judge overseeing the trial broke for lunch before any questions about sexual assault came up.

Siebel Newsom appeared eager to testify Monday morning, but she also was visibly nervous. At one point, she paused and told the court, “Sorry, I just need to take a deep breath.”

The governor accompanied Siebel Newsom to the courthouse, but the court did not allow him to enter the courtroom for her testimony, a Newsom advisor said.

As his trial enters its fourth week, Weinstein has already faced scathing testimony from six different women who say he used his influence to isolate them in hotel rooms and assault them in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Puerto Rico and Toronto. Many of the women had told their stories in detail before in other court cases or through the media, but Siebel Newsom’s allegations against Weinstein have remained largely shrouded for years.

The women in the case are anonymously testing, and The Times does not name victims of sexual assault unless they have spoken out publicly or asked to be identified. Siebel Newsom accused Weinstein of abuse in a 2017 Huffington Post essay that ran just days after major media outlets began publishing information about rape accusations against the Miramax co-founder. But her involvement in the Los Angeles trial was not widely known until The Times first reported it last month.

Siebel Newsom was an aspiring actor when she alleges Weinstein assaulted her in a Los Angeles hotel. During his opening statement, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. atty Paul Thompson said Weinstein had summoned Siebel Newsom to a meeting at a Beverly Hills hotel in order to discuss her acting career. A number of aides were in the room when she got there, but they quickly left, Thompson said.

After a professional discussion, Weinstein excused himself and went to the restroom. He returned in a bathrobe and made advances on Siebel Newsom. Weinstein began talking about women whose top-flight acting careers he had launched in a tone that “moved from pleading to aggressive to demanding,” Thompson said, but Siebel Newsom rejected him.

Then, Thompson alleged, Weinstein shoved Siebel Newsom onto a bed, forced himself on her orally and then raped her.

Weinstein is charged with 11 counts of rape and sexual battery stemming from accusations made by five women who say he assaulted them in Los Angeles area hotels between 2004 and 2013. Three of the women whose accusations prompted charges at the Los Angeles trial have already been tested.

Prosecutors have made no mention of Jane Doe 5 throughout their presentation of evidence. Weinstein’s defense team has asked LA County Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench to dismiss the four counts related to her accusation if she is not going to testify. Lench has declined to do so, and Thompson has not commented on the woman’s status in the case.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said the prosecution is having “witness availability issues” with Jane Doe 5, as she lives outside the country and cannot be brought to court via subpoena. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk candidly about the situation.

If convicted in Los Angeles, Weinstein would face a de facto life sentence. Weinstein was also convicted of rape in a 2020 trial in New York City and sentenced to a 23-year prison term there.

The mogul has denied all wrongdoing. His defense attorneys, Mark Werksman and Alan Jackson, have aggressively questioned his accusers during cross-examination in recent weeks. Werksman has said the assaults described by Jane Does 1 and 2 never happened and claimed some of the other accusers, including Siebel Newsom, engaged in “transactional sex” with Weinstein to advance their Hollywood careers.

“The accusers in this case, women who willingly played the game by the rules that applied back then, they will come into this courtroom now, with their lawyers in tow, and claim they were raped and sexually assaulted,” Werksman said during his opening statements. “They have to lie to themselves … to make what they did consensually back then seem like it was forced upon them.”

In perhaps the most stunning moment of the trial thus far, Werksman also said Siebel Newsom is engaging in revisionist history to cast herself as a victim in the case. Otherwise, he said, she would be “just another bimbo who slept with Harvey Weinstein to get ahead in Hollywood.”

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